Becoming an expat is both terrifying and exciting. And adjusting to expat life is no cake walk. There are lots of things that I wish I was told before moving abroad, so I've decided to share some of them with you here! These are purely from my experience and I am definitely not an expert and am still being challenged every single day.
1. Take a deep breath.
You're here. You've made the plunge. Now breathe. Now jump around like a child, because you've just started the most exciting chapter of your life!
2. Don't dive into everything you want to do and see all at once.
I've seen a lot of people make this mistake, and it's one that sticks out to me a lot. A lot of ex-pats or study abroad students rush into completing everything on their wanderlist immediately. Sloooooow down. There will be days eventually when you have friends or family coming to visit you who want to take you "somewhere you've never been before", and you wish you'd have saved the London Eye or that special restaurant for another time.
3. Learn to laugh at yourself.
A few months ago, I peed my pants at a National Park in Croatia. When I first moved to Spain, I accidentally told my host mom in broken Spanish that I like to ride horses (I don't) and I used the word for "testicles" instead of the word for "cushions." Life's funny like that. If you don't know how to laugh at yourself, I recommend you learn reaaaaaaaal quick. Sometimes it's the only thing that can keep you from crying when you're standing there lost at midnight in the middle of Prague and it's 10F degrees outside. Don't let the little things get you down. It's just not worth it.
4. It's okay not to be okay.
Things are going to be rough sometimes. After three years of living abroad, I still have bad days mixed in with the good days. There are always going to be things that I miss, and they change daily. Today, I wish I had a car so I didn't have to take the tube 45 minutes to where I need to be. I wish I had honey mustard and banana peppers and easy access to a good sub sandwich. Some days, I have a melt down. Actually, lots of days, I have a melt down. Let yourself break down and miss the comforts of home.
5. Throw caution to the wind!
Now isn't the time to be hesitant or cautious. Au contraire. Obviously, be safe in the process, but now is the time to do things you would not have done before.
6. Pick a personal mantra and stick by it.
Drake's mantra is YOLO. Queen Bey's is 'flawless.' Now it's time to pick yours. Pick a line in which you're going to make your brand for the entire time that you're abroad, and try to channel that mantra in everything that you do.
7. Forget the haters.
"Cause somebody loves ya." At least that's what Miley says. There will always be people that disagree with what you're doing. I could count on all my fingers and toes the people that have expressed disinterest in the way I'm living my life. I used to internalize it, but once you start, you just can't stop. There are always a thousand reasons not to do something, but living your life dwelling on those reasons get in the way of what truly makes you happy. Surround yourself with people who are a positive light in your life, and who will help encourage your growth be it at home or abroad. And try to stick the haters in your back pocket.
8. Explore all the time.
If your time abroad is limited, maximize it! Make it a point to see something new or explore a new neighborhood EVERY WEEK. Act like a tourist, hit the city's hottest spots, hit the city's dingiest spots, check out the museums, attend local events etc. Never stop adventuring, even in your new home.
Or, go the extra mile and book an impromptu trip! Explore a new place without going too far, and stay a few days just to get a taste of the flavor nearby.
9. Mingle with other expats as much as you can!
Tap in to your city's Expat community. It's a great way to make friends (although a lot of them do end up leaving!) and an even better way to cure homesickness. See if there are any expat meetups in your area, or online communities that you can engage in. I'm a member of a few Americans in London Facebook groups that have helped me with things as small as finding the nearest store that sells good torillas, and as big as visa struggles.
10. But even more importantly, mingle with the locals.
If you go back home with only expat friends, you're doing it wrong! The locals are your key to an exciting adventure abroad. They can tell you the best things to do and places to see nearby, or even far away! You'll get to know the culture better than your other expat friends who just stick with each other :p
11. Let go of any and all relationships back home that hold you back.
I'm not saying dump your boyfriend and move to Asia (although if you do, more power to ya girl). But if you're worried about friendships fading when you leave, just remember that your true friends will still be your true friends if/when you come back. There's no use stressing over relationships that are difficult to maintain or keep you too tied to home. In a similar sense, ignore those who tell you that they disagree with your decision.
12. Be patient.
Life is always harder abroad. That's just fact. If you're anything like me, you probably will miss the conveniences of home, especially things like driving, what seems like simple technologies, and just the ease of speaking the same language and being from the same culture of others around me. Try to meet people where they're at, and understand that not everywhere is going to be just like home.
13. Be forgiving of yourself.
You're probably going to make lost of mistakes. Shake them off. Life's just too damn short.
14. Learn how to deal with inevitable homesickness, and learn how you best cope with it.
Let's be real with ourselves, homesickness is going to happen. You can be the most seasoned of expats, but sometimes you'll get that tinge at the pit of your stomach that makes you crave the comfort of home, the convenience of everything, and friends and family. The best thing that you can do for yourself is realize that there's no 1-2-3 solution to homesickness, but you can do your very best to learn how you cope with it on an individual basis. Learn what makes the feeling subside for a little while, and do it every time. For me, I like going out for a nice, hearty American meal, calling my mom, having a nice little cry, and watching an American movie until the feeling passes. While this may not be applicable for everyone, I do have some recommendations about what could work in a previous blog post. Read about it by clicking here.
I wrote in that post that something you can do is to call your parents. Part of me takes that back, and part of me doesn't. There's only so much you can call your family until you start becoming co-dependent. Call them sometimes, but be sure you're still keeping your independence.
15. Learn how to fall in love with yourself.
In the first few months, you're probably going to be spending a large chunk of time on your own before you're able to establish yourself with friends and a good network of people. So make sure that you are comfortable enough with yourself in order to be alone for long periods of time, and know how to keep yourself occupied.
16. Learn to fall in love with the world, but don't rush it.
The world is a beautiful place, but don't expect to see it right away. You'll have your 'yaaaaaaas' moments, but perhaps not right away.